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In the midst of the many wonderful films made by Stanley Kubrick, it is
strange to note how rarely people mention "Barry Lyndon".
The film portrays an unusual young Irish man, Redmond Barry, and his endeavours as he is forced to leave his home and tries to make good his life elsewhere. His life away from home starts out as a career in the British Army; only to evolve in surprising ways and lead to as different places as a position of trust within the Prussian Army and later a title of nobility, gained by what our time can only measure as rather disgraceful means.
Some consider Barry Lyndon a slow and tedious film and it is in deed past three hours in length, but this is because of the artistic flow of a film that strays not only to tell a tale about a man who is by no means neither hero nor villain, but also a film which is in no hurry and takes the time for every detail to sink into the mind and heart of the viewer. Some of the scenic images in "Barry Lyndon" are in themselves pieces of art, rendered with a passion for the landscapes and the man-made structures within them.
The myth that all scenes were recorded using no artificial lighting no doubt stems from the very realistic lights during indoor takes, and some of them truly did not feature artificial light. This is but one of the many details that so easily conveys a sense of a realistic portray of the era; the 18th century and the time after the seven-year war in the later half of the century. The impressive atmosphere and the wonderfully picturesque scenarios along with the fact that the entire plot moves at a calm pace makes this film a very pleasant experience.
"Barry Lyndon is", amidst Kubricks' many masterpieces, a film so easily dismissed due to length and the fact that it is overshadowed by others, but I deeply recommend this film to anyone who would like to see a film both for the plot line, the story and the pure enjoyment of the images presented. Stanley Kubrick made many great films and this one is most definitely one of them! KimotoCat
In fact it's one of Kubrick's most gripping pictures, with a narrative drive
second only to that of "Dr. Strangelove" (and it's unquestionably a more
glorious creation than, say, anything he made in the 1950s). English
director Michael Powell (while attributing a similar failing to one of his
own works) says that Kubrick fell into "the trap of the picturesque", but
while I admire Powell as a creator, the judgment is absurd: at the VERY
least, each lush image shows us people not just occupying a part of the
screen but inhabiting a world, and tells us much about their relation to
that world. Many shots are indeed amazing and beguile the eye, but they
don't have the effect they do simply because they would make nice
THIS, I feel sure (without having read Thackeray), is the proper way to adapt a long story from novel to screen. Each scene is either allowed as much time as it needs to make its point and its impact, or it's cut altogether - you won't catch Kubrick skating too quickly over his material for no better reason than to fit it all in. The third-person narration (consisting of witty, beautifully crafted sentences - it's about time I did read Thackeray) almost performs a kind of dance with the images, gliding in just when we need it, taking a step back when we don't. (So rarely is even third-person narration used so well.) And as always, Kubrick's musical sense is unerring. My impression at the time was that I was listening to mid-eighteenth century music that gave way to pieces from the classical era as the hero started to move in higher and higher circles. I was more or less right. But then I noticed Schubert's name in the credits - and I realised with a start that I'd been listening to, had even started tapping my feet to, a Schubert piece I was familiar with, without the anachronism registering.
It's a pity Kubrick stopped making epics after this. Look at the ones he's responsible for: "Spartacus" (not a project Kubrick was fond of, admittedly, but still the most magnificent of all Roman epics) "2001" (the most magnificent of ALL epics), and "Barry Lyndon". The last of the three is by no means a poor cousin.
Barry Lyndon (1975) has to be Stanley Kubrick's most realized project
that he has ever taken. A big task for the maverick director. For a
film like this to be made during the free wheeling seventies had to
take some big stones. One must admire Mr. Kubrick for even trying to
produce and direct such a complex and expensive film that had all the
ear markings of a financial and personal disaster. Not only did Kubrick
manage to out do his last epic "2001" but he has created a movie that
not only showcases the untapped acting abilities of Ryan O'Neil, but a
beautifully lensed film that uses minimal lighting , gorgeous sets,
perfect balance, positioning and meticulous timing. I have never seen
such a magnificent film such as this one. Every shot and frame plays
out like an eighteenth century oil painting.
A young Irish man of lower class has the strangest quirk of luck. After participating in an illegal duel, young Barry is forced to flee from his home village. After being accosted by some gentlemanly highway robbers, Barry winds up cross country and becomes a conscripted soldier. Rising in rank, Barry is sent to fight in the Seven's Year War. Whilst in battle he watches his friends and fellow soldiers being slaughtered in combat due to poor tactics and leadership. Having enough of this life of hardship and struggle, Barry uses his god given talents to do what he has to do in order to survive and become a man of proper social standing.
I was very impressed with this movie. I've put off watching this film until recently. Some have told me how long and boring this movie was. Others have said it was pretty self serving and not worth watching. But after seeing part of it on T.C.M., I just had to find a copy of my own. The film is over three hours in length but they go by very quickly because Barry's story is so captivating. Kubrick poured his heart and soul into this film. The results are on the screen. He's clearly a master film maker. His reputation is cemented forever with this movie. Ryan O'Neil impressed the hell out me with his role as Barry Lyndon. He gives the character some dignity and depth that no other actor could have possibly given to the title role.
Overall I would have to give this film one of my highest recommendations. This is one of my top ten films of all time. If people tell you not to watch this masterpiece ignore them. I advise you to get a copy and enjoy. For a film like this you need to set aside a weekend afternoon to fully appreciate a film such as this. Believe me you will not regret it.
Highest recommendation possible.
It doesn't matter whether you watch it on D.V.D. or V.C.D. because the transfers are excellent on either format.
(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut
to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it
Stanley Kubrick's beautifully opulent production takes many liberties with William Makepeace Thackeray's picaresque romance, The Memoirs of Barry Lyndon, Esq (1843), narrated in the first person depicting events from the eighteenth century. In particular, Redmond Barry who becomes Barry Lyndon, is something of an admirable rake, whereas in Thackeray's novel he is a braggart, a bully and a scoundrel. No matter. Kubrick, in keeping with a long-standing filmland tradition, certainly has license, and Thackeray won't mind.
Ryan O'Neal is the unlikely star, and he does a good job, rising from humble Irish origins to the decadence of titled wealth, employing a two-fisted competence in the manly arts, including some soldiering, some thievery at cards and a presumed consummate skill in the bedroom. Marisa Berenson plays Lady Lyndon, whom Barry has managed to seduce; and when her elderly husband dies, she marries Barry thus elevating his social and economic station in life. But Barry is rather clumsy at playing at peerage, and bit by bit manages to squander most of the Lyndon fortune until his stepson, Lord Bullingdon (Leon Vitali) grows old enough to do something about it.
This really is a gorgeous movie thanks to the exquisite sets and costumes and especially to John Alcott's dreamy cinematography and a fine score by Leonard Rosenman. The 184 minutes go by almost without notice as we are engrossed in the rise and fall of Barry's fortunes. There is fine acting support from Patrick Magee as the Chevalier de Balibari and Leonard Rossiter as Captain Quinn, and a number of lesser players, who through Kubrick's direction bring to life Europe around the time of the Seven Years War (1754-1763) when decadence and aristocratic privilege were still in full flower.
The script features two dueling scenes, the first showing the combatants firing at one another simultaneously at the drop of a white kerchief, the second has Barry and his stepson face each other ten paces apart, but due to the flip of a coin, the stepson fires first. Both scenes are engrossing as we see the loading of the pistols with powder, ball and ramrod, and we are able to note how heavy the pistols are and how difficult it must be to hit a silhouette at even a short distance. It is this kind of careful attention to directional detail that absorbs us in the action and makes veracious the story. Notice too the way the British soldiers march directly en mass toward the French guns. They actually used to fight battles that way! Also note the incredible pile of hair atop Lady Lyndon's head. Surely this is some kind of cinematic record.
Bottom line: one of Kubrick's best, certainly his most beautiful film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Barry Lyndon is one of my favourite films of all time. Kubrick's
craftsmanship is impeccable. The film is slow and dreamy in its pace
which, along with the scenic shots, establishes a romanticised watercolour
view of the period (somewhat like a Carpenter landscape). In fact, Kubrick
has set up almost every shot (indoor and out) like a painting. This
romanticism provides an interesting counterpoint against Lyndon's less than
admirable actions throughout the film.
I would have to say that the best acting in Barry Lyndon comes from some of the minor actors. Leonard Rossiter delivers a fantastic portrait of the arrogant Captain Quinn, with exaggerated facial expressions and movements (eg. like in the dance scene, or when his engagement to Nora is announced) that are perfect for the self-aggrandising bluster of this character. Leon Vitali as Lord Bullingdon also gives an insightful performance as Barry's stepson.
In some way almost all of Stanley Kubrick's movies are very gloomy, dreary
and wicked. The idea of "Lolita" is definitely perverted, "The Shining" is
maybe the most terrifying film ever made, "Full Metal Jacket" is still one
of the most pressuring war movies, from time to time "Eyes Wide Shut" looks
almost like a horror film and even "2001: A Space odyssey" has some pretty
"Barry Lyndon" was Kubrick's next film after his darkest masterpiece "A Clockwork Orange" and certainly a totally different kind of a work. Even though "Barry Lyndon's" second half is slightly darker and the movie certainly isn't a comedy of any kind it's still quite a nice, warm and genial picaresque story. It's hard to say is it a bit overlong because it's easier to watch in two parts but nevertheless it's a brilliant film from the very start. "Barry Lyndon" is full of unforgettable sequences. My favorite is probably the duel between Barry Lyndon and his stepson Lord Bullington.
One of the things I love most about this movie is the splendid epilogue. Closing words of "Barry Lyndon" brings hilariously together every event seen in the film. Ryan O'Neal makes a fabulous performance as Barry. He isn't all that well-known actor in the movie business but he does a great job in the difficult leading role. I'll give 9 out of 10 to "Barry Lyndon" and point out that although it's not Kubrick's finest flick it's still a very excellent movie and an extremely important part of his works and it should not be underestimate. If you have seen lots of Kubrick classics but not this one, take this chance to jump into 18th century and watch the entertaining adventures of Redmond Barry.
The beauty, the depth, and the mystery of this film are unsurpassable -
what Kubrick was doing with light is just a miracle. Special lenses
were designed to shoot interiors and exteriors in natural light. In one
scene Barry (Ryan O'Neil) was having a dinner with a German woman who
was feeding her baby and the candle light made the whole scene look
like a Caravaggio's painting. This is just one of many scenes. Each of
them is perfection and harmony. Costumes and sets were crafted in the
era's design. Age of Enlightenment with its gallantry, wars, and duels,
had been recreated in the film with the precision of the celebrated
landscape and portrait masters of the period such as Thomas
Gainsborough; Sir Joshua Reynolds, founder of the Royal Academy of
Arts; George Romney to name just a few. If nothing else, watching BL is
pure aesthetic delight - and there is one man who responsible for it,
Stanley Kubrick. If ever divine film was made, "Barry Lyndon" was it
and Kubrick could've quoted the Bible - "God looked at everything he
had made, and he found it very good".
I've read the comments and articles that call "Barry Lyndon" cold, slow, boring, "the collection of pretty pictures', "flawed" masterpiece, and the most ridiculous one, "glittering ornament with a hollow center". I simply can't understand it. "Barry Lyndon" is the most compelling and compassionate realization of the inevitable finality of everything in this world which was presented by the visionary director with elegant sensual melancholy. Stanley Kubrick known for his detached, seemingly remote and non-sentimental style chose to reach out to his viewer directly during the epilogue, "It was in the reign of George III that the aforesaid personalities lived and quarreled, good or bad, handsome or ugly, rich or poor, they are all equal now". I don't recall any other movie that would illustrate the old wisdom, "everything will pass" in such sublime and deeply moving way.
Some movies - I wish there were more of them - simply look like a
series of great paintings. This film has that look. You could
freeze-frame many of the scenes and swear you were looking at a
Gainsborough, a Vermeer, a Hogarth or similar work of art by one the
great artists of three to five centuries ago. It's just beautiful.
For that, we have Director Stanley Kubrick and Photographer John Alcott to thank. Being a three-hour movie, there are plenty of wonderful shots to admire, too. In addition, the costumes are lavish and authentic and the scoring is notable. It's no accident that Oscars were garnered for art/set direction, cinematography, costume design and scoring. Yeah, if you enjoy classical music, you'll really enjoy the soundtrack, too, under the guidance of conductor Leonard Roseman.
Not to be overlooked is the fine acting and the interesting and underrated story. I say "underrated" because this film, from what I've read, bored a lot of people and and it was a box-office flop. That's too bad because, frankly, I found the story (outside of the first 10--15 minutes) to be fascinating. As I watched, I kept wondering what strange occurrences will happen next to the lead character, "Redmond Barry/Barry Lyndon," played beautifully by Ryan O'Neal. (For most of the movie, he's called "Redmond Barry," so I will refer to him as that.)
Overall, this was a low-key adventure story about the rise-and-fall of a "scoundrel" back in late 18th century Englishman. "Mr. Barry" is an Irishmen living in England who winds up dealing with a number of people: Irish, English, Prussian, French. His dealings with these people are bizarre at times. While he mainly is shown doing what he can to promote himself, for either monetary gain and prestige of a name and power, he's not all bad. There is a compassionate side to him, but it only shows itself in small doses. It makes him all the more interesting to watch, because you don't always know how he's going to react to his circumstances, which change radically every few years.
We witness his rise to prominence and then his fall when his "sins begin to find him out," as the Bible would describe. It's quite a roller coaster ride.
This is an emotional, involving story, and a feast for the eyes and ears. It's quite different, too, certainly not the average fare from Kubrick. I can only hope this comes out on a high-definition disc some day. Admirers of this film need to see this in all its glory.
When I was in high school, it was considered "cool" to watch Stanley Kubrick
movies as they were seen as "more enlightened forms of entertainment" over
stuff by Steven Spielberg and John Hughes. If you didn't memorize the
opening speech to Full Metal Jacket or hadn't seen Nicole Kidman in Eyes
Wide Shut then you were rejected from the clique. This was at the time when
I was first viewing Kurosawa's Rashomon and Ran and accidentally came across
this gem. Sure, the rest of the gang would be quoting along with Alex
DeLarge in A Clockwork Orange, but not one of them would dare sit down and
watch this or 2001: A Space Odyssey. Fools.
Barry Lyndon is another sign of sheer genius on behalf of Kubrick. Notice that in his career he is never concerned about making money, just creating an image and telling a story. Imagine if Michael Bay did the same, he'd be out of the business in no time and having to sell his own movies at the Video Hut. This movie is one of his better detailed (and yet mysteriously unsung) masterpieces that is so beautiful to look at that it almost becomes artistic pornography (in the sense of creating intense emotion). This isn't to say that Barry Lyndon is vulgar. By comparison to Eyes Wide Shut and The Shining, this is a kid's cartoon.
Kubrick is once again a certified genius with his camera. The elaborate and glamorous scenes ranging from duels to gardens and even just the opening prologue are beautifully rendered in a style reminiscent of Monet or other artists. I found it interesting how Kubrick includes pigeons (doves?) in the final duel. Perhaps John Woo gained some inspiration from this.
The story is paper thin compared to 2001 and lacks much of the symbolism. In fact, it is very hard to either sympathize with Ryan O'Neil as the title character because of his lack of portrayal. As a whole, none of the characters gain either support or disapproval because of their fleeting presence. The sets and costume designs themselves become more of a character than the actors. Thankfully, the story is not as convoluted as I expected. It flows nicely and never gets boring because of the variety of powerful elements infused into it.
First off, kudos to both Ken Adam and Vernon Dixon for their brilliant production design. I loved what Ken did with Dr. Strangelove (smart move for him to ditch the Bond series for that). John Alcott is one of Kubrick's lesser cinematographers, but he is still very talented here. I'm certain that, if he had lived longer, Kubrick would've kept using him. He is not as concerned about symmetry, that or the topics aren't, as the rest of Kubrick's work. The biggest irony about Barry Lyndon would have to be that everyone in the categories EXCEPT Kubrick won an Oscar for their work. I think the Academy has something of a grudge against him because of his superior quality of work.
Overall, a phenomenal quality of film that they just don't make anymore. I put this in my Top 10 required viewings for anyone who wants to be in film. Kubrick has transcended Shakespeare with this film. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
Kubrick's adaptation of Thackeray's Barry Lyndon sharply divides fans of the great director's work, as the languid pace and seemingly interminable running time -- not to mention Ryan O'Neal's questionable performance in the title role -- are cherished by some and deplored by others. Little argument will be made against John Alcott's Academy Award-winning cinematography or Ken Adam's production design, however, and Kubrickian motifs are manifest in the gallery of characters' wide-ranging displays of cowardice, guile, duplicity, avarice, jealousy, greed, and cruelty. Marisa Berenson is terribly short-changed in her role as the Lady Lyndon, but a number of other performers are given the opportunity to create a handful of memorable moments -- especially Arthur O'Sullivan (albeit briefly) as the charming, intelligent highwayman and Patrick Magee as the Chevalier. Love it or hate it, Barry Lyndon will remain essential viewing for aficionados of the director, who enjoys taking his usual shots at the more discouraging aspects of human behavior.
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